Wisconsin is axing a rivalry tradition with Minnesota this weekend, hoping to avoid any on-field altercations.
The Paul Bunyan Axe, which is the trophy that the Badgers and Gophers play for every year, will remain inside during Saturday's game at Camp Randall Stadium instead of resting on the sideline, Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen said Monday. It will not be brought to the field until the end of the game, at which point it will be brought to the end zone nearest to the locker room of the winning team.
But after the Badgers won 20-7 in Minneapolis last year, Gophers players and coaches refused to move away from one of the goalposts, igniting a brief scuffle between the teams that nearly turned ugly.
Andersen said he didn't know what would have happened had a brawl broken out.
"Who are you going to bring in, the National Guard?" he said Monday.
The winning team can still bring the trophy onto the field to celebrate once opposing players, coaches and officials have cleared out, Andersen said. He joked that he might even take a swing with the ax, should Wisconsin win its 11th straight in the series.
Andersen said he hasn't spoken to Minnesota coach Jerry Kill about this new protocol. But after last year's game, Kill said the schools "need to handle [the celebration] in a different way."
Wisconsin-Minnesota is the most-played rivalry in the FBS. The Paul Bunyan Axe was introduced in 1948, replacing the Slab of Bacon trophy, which mysteriously disappeared.
The winner of this week's game between the No. 16 Badgers and No. 25 Gophers will clinch a spot in the Big Ten championship game.